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July 4, 2022

Court Case Bulletin (CCB): Mere Similarities Will Not Come Under The Purview Of Copyright

Author: Former Intern - Megha Rathore

In the matter of Suryansh Broadcasting Pvt Ltd & Anr. v. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd & Anr. [FAO No. 9 of 2022], the High Court of Kerala vide judgement dated March 29, 2022, while dismissing the appeal filed by the Appellants against the Trial Court’s order refusing injunction against the telecast and airing of the Respontens’ programme, held that there is no copyright over a general theme/plot or its natural sequences.

Section 14(a)(vi) of the Copyright Act, 1957, provides that “copyright means the exclusive right to do or authorise the doing of any of the following acts- (a)in the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, – …(vi) to make any adaptation of the work.” The question that arises, therefore, is whether adopting a programme with a similar theme/plot will amount to an ‘adaptation’ of the original work?

The Appellants alleged that the Respondents made an adaptation of their programme since Respondents’ programme closely resembles their programme and even the actors employed are the same. The Appellants argued that the Respondents’ programme creates a reasonable doubt as to the identity in the minds of the viewers, who might believe that it is Appellants’ media.

The Court observed that there is no verbatim reproduction or adaptation of the Appellants’ programme in the Respondents’ programme. The theme employed is the spontaneous behaviour of the family members, in two identical families- one Hindu and the other Christian, which by itself does not bring the matter within the sweep of making an adaptation under Section 14(a)(vi).

The High Court while upholding the Trial Court’s order held that “Copyright is actually intended to protect the work of a particular person or group of persons or a firm whatever it may be, but that does not mean that it is not permissible to adopt the very same theme or plot or idea or subject matter by others unless the same is having an individual nature of its own with the employment of an invention made by the creator apart from the generality of idea, theme or plot and its natural sequences…mere similarities will not come under the purview of copyright as made mentioned in Section 14 of the Copyright Act, unless it satisfies the various clauses incorporated therein.”

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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